Call Bridge

This page is based on information from Kayes Islam and Farhan Hussain.

Introduction

Call bridge is a game of tricks, trumps and bidding which is popular in Bangladesh. It seems to be related to the North American game Spades. The rules vary from place to place, and several of these alternatives are described in the variations section.

Players and Cards

This game is normally played by 4 people using a standard international 52-card pack.

The cards of each suit rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. Spades are permanent trumps: any card of the Spade suit beats any card of any other suit.

Deal and play are counter-clockwise.

Deal

Any player may deal first: subsequently the turn to deal passes to the right.

The dealer deals out all the cards, one at a time, face down, so that each player has 13 cards. The players pick up their cards and look at them.

Bidding

Starting with the player to dealer's right, and continuing counter-clockwise round the table, ending with the dealer, each player calls a number, which must be at least 2. (The maximum sensible call is 12.) This call represents the number of tricks which the player undertakes to win. In this game the tricks bid are known as "calls".

Play

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick, and subsequently the winner of each trick leads to the next.

Any card may be led, and the other three players must follow suit if they can. A player who cannot follow suit must trump with a spade, provided that this spade is high enough to beat any spades already in the trick. A player who has no cards of the suit led and no spades high enough to head the trick may play any card.

The trick is won by the player of the highest spade in it, or if it contains no spade, by the player of the highest card of the suit that was led.

Note that:

  1. A player who is able to play a card of the suit that was led is not obliged to head the trick. This also applies when spades are led: players may play higher or lower spades as they wish.
  2. A player who has no cards of a suit is said to be "off" that suit. If is off the suit that was led, and there are no spades in the trick yet, the player must play a spade if possible. If there is already a spade in the trick, the player who is "off" the led suit must play a higher spade if possible. If the player only has lower spades, he or she can "waste" one of these spades to avoid taking an unwanted trick later, or can throw a card of another suit.

Scoring

To succeed, a player must win the number of tricks called, or one more trick than the call. If a player succeeds, the number called is added to his or her cumulative score. Otherwise the number called is subtracted.

For example, a player who calls 4 must win 4 or 5 tricks to succeed, and in this case gains 4 points. Winning 3 or fewer tricks or 6 or more tricks counts as a loss, and the player loses 4 points.

Calls of 8 tricks or more are bonus calls. A player who calls 8 or more scores 13 points (instead of the amount of the call) if successful. If unsuccessful, the amount of the call is subtracted as usual. So for example a player who calls 9 scores +13 for 9 or 10 tricks, but -9 for 11 or more tricks or 8 or fewer.

There is no fixed end to the game. Players continue for as long as they wish, and when the game ends the player with the highest score is the winner.

Variations

Deal

Some play that everyone must hold at least one spade. If any player has no spades at all, the cards are reshuffled and dealt again by the same dealer.

Calling and Scoring

If a player is dealt no cards of a suit, this is known as a "side off". Some play that after everyone has called and before the first card is led, anyone who has a "side off" must declare it.

Many play that in order to succeed you simply have to win as many tricks as you called. In this case the maximum call is 8 (there would be no point in calling more since a call of 8 already gives you the maximum score of 13 if successful). The problem with this version is that it allows players to "hide calls" - that is, play safe by calling fewer tricks than they will probably win. Players who are well ahead in the scoring may do this to preserve their position.

As a way to prevent excessive "hiding", some play that the calls of the four players must add up to at least 10 for play to continue. If the calls of the four players add up to 9 or less, the cards are reshuffled and dealt again by the same dealer.

Some play that the score for a successful "bonus call" of 8 or more is 16 points rather than 10.

Play

Many play that it is illegal to lead a spade to the first trick. In subsequent tricks any card can be led.

Some play that it is illegal to "waste" a trump. That is, if a suit other than spades was led and has already been trumped, you are not allowed to play a smaller trump (unless of course you have no other card to play).

Some play that it is compulsory to overtake. Even when following suit, you must always play a card that will beat all those already played to the trick, if possible. Sometimes this rule is adopted in a game with novice players, because it is thought to make the play easier.

There is a rare variant in which players are not required to trump. In this case a player who is off a suit may any card.

Other websites, software and online games

An online Call Bridge game is available on Kayes Islam's Call Bridgers website.